Bonded In Exile~Excerpt
(The Great Flood)
Rictor glanced to the heavens as the first drops of rain fell from the sky, landing on the dry, barren earth. Dark billowing clouds rolled in, blotting out the sun. He closed his eyes and tipped his head back, letting the drops splatter against his face. Faster, harder, the rain fell, but it couldn’t drown out the screams.
This was the beginning of the end for a cursed race of half-breeds, born of lust and greed—pure evil…nothing more and nothing less. Any hope of survival vanished with the resolute slam of the Ark’s heavy wooden door, and the echo of finality pounded through Rictor’s head. Tension strung his muscles tight as the mounting desperation of lost souls threatened to consume him.
The Day of Judgment was finally upon them, and the world’s natural order would finally be set right again. An entire race of half-angel/half-mortal, the Nephilim, would be destroyed.
Rictor stalked down the dirt-packed street, the rain quickly turning the road sticky beneath his feet. Mud clung to the bottom of his sandals, making each step a further irritation. The heady scent of wet earth mixed with the bitter tang of fear stung his nostrils. Men, women, and children frantically scrambled around him in a web of chaos, searching for some glimmer of hope that wasn’t to be found. They were all going to die.
His brows pulled tight, deepening his scowl another degree as he exited the village. Five minutes of peace and quiet, that was all he wanted. Five minutes to be alone and clear his aching head. They were here to do a job and all had their orders, but right or wrong, this ethnic cleansing sat ill with him.
The fallen had lived in open disregard to authority for far too long. Taking mortal wives… How could any of them possibly think this was going to end well? Fools, insolent fools—every last one of them. And look what their impudence has forced upon the Brethren. Cleaning up Attar’s mess… Damn him, damn them all.
With one powerful swoop of his wings, Rictor leapt to a large branch of a towering Sycamore and leaned against the tree’s smooth, cool spine, his temporary refuge still dry beneath the heavy canopy of leaves. Exhaling a troubled sigh, he closed his eyes to rest—to wait—wait for the water to rise. How long would it take? Hours? Days? Weeks? And how long for the Brethren to kill those the flood did not consume? This just felt wrong.
Through the downpour, the distant patter of footsteps caught his attention. As they grew closer, he tensed. Who in the hell was disturbing him now? Arching his brow, Rictor canted his head to the side and cracked open an eye. His breath froze in his lungs.
Squinting through the haze of rain, he watched as a young woman raced toward him. She didn’t appear to notice his presence, or perhaps she just didn’t care that her breasts nearly spilled from the top of her rain-soaked dress. Her bare feet pounded the sodden earth, gaining speed as she neared the cave behind him. The female was stunning—exquisite—terrified.
What a waste.
The bitter almond tang of her fear wafted up as she ran by, the acrid bite reminding him of arsenic. Fitting, for these creatures were certainly toxic as any poison. God knows, they’d corrupted enough of his kind.
Returning to his meditation, he leaned back and closed his eyes, trying his damnedest to ignore the female as she darted out of sight. “Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but that cave’s not gonna save you,” he grumbled under his breath.
The rustle of frantic movements echoed inside the cave broke his concentration. Several minutes passed before everything grew eerily quiet. The silence piqued his curiosity. She was still in the cave—he could smell her. The light fragrance of rose hips clung to the damp, sultry air, teasing his preternaturally acute senses.
Those wicked creatures could stir the passions of any angel. The trick, he’d discovered, was not letting them get too close. Distance made it easier to resist their seductive charms, their spells of the dark arts. Many an angel had tried, and many had failed.
As the rain intensified, heavy drops beat against the leaves, surrounding him in a cacophony of white noise. Unfortunately, it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the broken sobs filling the cave below.
Don’t do it. Don’t go down there.
But her pitiful cries evoked his protective instincts, stirring the warrior inside him to action, even though he knew he should just walk the hell away.
“So much for five minutes of peace and quiet,” he grumbled. Heaving a deep sigh, Rictor leapt from the branch, landing softly on the ground. Errant feathers floated to his feet as he tucked his wings behind his back and stepped into the narrow mouth of the cave.
The musty scent of raw dirt and rotting leaves clung to the stale, humid air. But not even the earth could hide the scent of the beautiful woman huddled helplessly in the corner—no, not a woman, he reminded himself. Nephilim.
Rictor’s sight quickly adjusted to the darkness and locked on the female knelt helplessly before a small mound of firewood. Her face was buried in her hands, her thin shoulders racked with sobs. The animal hide dress she wore halted mid-thigh, exposing far too much of her shapely, sun-kissed legs. A rain-stretched string of leather held her top together, revealing an abundance of cleavage he had no business looking at.
Rictor stood there a moment, silently watching her. When she failed to notice his presence, he cleared his throat.
A startled gasp caught in the female’s throat. The hauntingly feminine sound resonated off the walls, heating the blood in his veins. Her head snapped up, spine stiffened, shoulders back. A length of raven hair fell over her shoulder, blanketing his view of her breasts. At the sight of him, terror filled her eyes, and the Nephilim scrambled deeper into the shadows. She didn’t trust him—nor should she.
So then why did her fear annoy him? “Calm yourself, woman. I mean you no harm this day.” Rictor glanced at the small pile of wood she’d carelessly stacked and snapped his fingers impatiently. The kindling burst into flame with a sudden whoosh. Heat instantly filled the small cave, the flickering light chasing away shadows and casting others.
She let out a startled cry, staring up at him with the most gorgeous dark brown eyes he’d ever seen. “I know what you are,” she accused, pointing a delicate finger at him. “You are the son of Perdition! Stay away from me!”
A smile tugged at Rictor’s top lip. He’d been called many things before, but never that. “I am not of Perdition,” he replied, taking a few steps closer to stand beside the glowing flame. “Although in the days to come, I suppose many will not believe that.”
“Then who are you,” she demanded, “if not the one sent to destroy us?”
“Oh, I never said I wasn’t that. I just said it wasn’t Perdition that brings this judgment upon you.”
“But you said you mean me no harm.” Confusion wrought her airy, feminine voice as her beautiful face pinched into a puzzled frown.
Rictor tucked his wings to the side and sat beside the vigorous fire, warming his hands near the flames. “I will not harm you,” he vowed, his Ethric brogue thickening his husky voice.
The female’s eyes widened in disbelief as they locked on his black feathered wings. She leapt to her feet and scrambled to his side, suddenly looking at him as if he were her savior, not the monster sent here to destroy them. Caught off-guard by the swift change in her demeanor, the female’s nearness sent Rictor’s pulse pounding with dread, the blood in his veins heating with forbidden desire.
She should not be this close. Already, her aura snaked around him like an invisible cloud of seduction, drawing him to her, battering his defenses. He tried to move, but his body refused to cooperate. His heart thundered inside his chest, his senses heightened—sight, touch, smell…awakening every desire he’d fought an eternity to resist.
Rictor flinched when the female laid her hand on his thigh, her feather-light caress sending a jolt of heat straight into his stiffening shaft. His body reacted without his consent, the loss of control alerting his instincts of impending danger. They were never wrong, and this time would be no exception.
Hope filled her eyes as she stared up at him, her vulnerability making his chest constrict with the need to save—to protect—to possess.
“Please…” she whispered, “spare me, I beg of you. You’re my only hope.”
He barely heard her airy plea over the rapid pounding of his heart. Thunder rumbled in the distance, as if God Himself was warning Rictor to flee this wicked temptress’ embrace.
He didn’t speak. He dare not move as the female’s hand slid very slowly, very deliberately, to the place that took on a life of its own. Leaning closer, her breast brushed against the edge of his wing, her breath dancing across his neck as she bent closer still and pressed her soft lips to his.
What if I spared one? Just one… Who would know?
When he swallowed, the arid click of his parched throat brought a seductive smile to her beautiful lips hovering a mere breadth from his. “What is your name?” he asked, forcing the words out in a rasped whisper.
As she spoke, her delicious scent overwhelmed his senses, triggering the stretch of his fangs. “Where is your family, Naudia?” He spoke with care, mindful to hide the sharp points crowding his mouth, turning his speech thick. The vamperic trait was unique to the Atillians, a breed of angels unlike any other, set apart to do their Creator’s bidding.
“I don’t have any family,” she replied, brushing her mouth against his again in a teasing caress. “All I have is you. You’re my only hope.”
A startled gasp caught in his throat when the moist tip of her tongue slowly traced his top lip and then slipped inside his mouth on his ragged inhale. She tasted exactly as she smelled—delicious.
Helpless to resist the spell this creature cast upon him, the dam of Rictor’s resolve broke and he pulled the female into his arms. She was willing, eager, and every bit enthralling as she’d promised to be.